Setting the Tone

children playing the drums

By: Courtney Edge-Mattos

The gatherings were once small, just a few parents and kids.  There was no real zest or enthusiasm for extra-curricular activities.  That attitude was coming from us, the staff, and it wasn’t okay.  We had to change, we had to set the tone for the program we wished to be a part of.  Three years ago, we decided we needed to amp up the joy and we have never gone back.  Our Halloween party in 2014 brought together four groups of parents and six kids, that was it.  The staff on site out-numbered them, no question.  But wait, we said.  Word will spread and next year, we’ll be spilling out the doors.  Halloween 2015…we ran out of pumpkins for kids to decorate, polished off eighteen pizzas, innumerable cookies, and poured countless cups of juice.  Kids were in costumes, parents were in costumes.  The next year (October 2016), we realized that the office was just too small to contain our team, so we decided to host Autumn Fest on the grounds.  Scores of children, families, and friends gathered on a sunny (though super windy!) day to celebrate and enjoy togetherness.  Parents pitched in and helped, staff members got to be silly and just have fun with their kids, and we all ended the day a little lighter in spirit.  This past fall brought a rainy Autumn Fest, but the weather didn’t stop us, it just made us get creative with space and stand a little closer, huddled under umbrellas.  We sang karaoke in the hallways, danced “the bump” in the foyer, and had games in every office.  You know you are in the right place if, even soaked to the bone, you are happy to be there! 

Our gatherings are a mixed bag.  We’ve had cook-outs, visits to the zoo, ice skating parties, amusement park outings, art groups, Earth Day parties, drum circles, winter holiday parties, and trips to baseball games.  Some are carefully planned and require months of coordination, while others generate quickly and organically.  Whatever they are, however they happen, they serve a purpose: FUN!!!  Families (birth families, foster families, adoptive families, extended families, friends who are family) have to have FUN!  We need to run until we are out of breath, to laugh until we snort, and make memories.  We can’t just process trauma, working on coping skills, and worry about rules and regulations.  Everyone, from the newest person to our most senior senior, needs to enjoy life! 

Our most recent event (bowling last week at Wonder Bowl in New Bedford) included staff, foster parents, biological parents, a pre-adoptive family, and kiddos who are no longer in our program but decided to hang out with us anyway!  Our FAMILY gets larger and more beautiful with every gathering.  The more fun we have, the more we join together, the stronger we are.  To our friends and families who gathered together, thank you so much and we can’t wait to see you at the next event!

Want to mix foster with fun?  Call today! 508-821-7774


JRI Service Navigator

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Rachel has been a part of the JRI team since January, 2000. For over 20 years, Rachel has been working in the field of human services assisting families with accessing and navigating services. Rachel received her Bachelors degree in psychology and Masters Degree in Public Administration from Bridgewater State University. She was promoted in July 2005 to Family Networks Program Director where she closely worked with the Department of Children Families for 10 years ensuring that children and families received the highest quality of individualized services ranging from community based through residential care. Rachel is very dedicated to helping the individuals she works with and is committed to improving the lives of children and families. Rachel’s passion for creative service programming inspires her in her role as JRI Service Navigator.